12-year jail term sought for Panama ex-president Martinelli
PANAMA CITY, Panama — A Panamanian prosecutor on Thursday, June 1, sought a 12-year jail term for ex-president Ricardo Martinelli on charges of money laundering that have clouded his chances of standing in elections next year.
Prosecutor Emeldo Marquez asked a court to convict Martinelli and a dozen co-defendants, adding: “We must impose the maximum sentence” of 12 years for the offenses charged.
Martinelli, who was president from 2009-2014, stands accused of having bought a majority share in the Editora Panama America publishing house in 2010, using illegally acquired state funds.
According to prosecutors, Martinelli and others used a series of front companies to siphon off almost $44 million from state infrastructure contracts during his presidency.
Martinelli then allegedly used part of this money to buy a controlling stake in the media company, whose newspapers adopted an editorial line that promoted the ex-president’s interests.
Supermarket magnate Martinelli denies having received “any ill-gotten gains” and claims to be a victim of political machinations to prevent him from standing in the May 2024 presidential elections.
Marquez told the court Martinelli was the “author” of the crime, having deposited money personally and through an intermediary “reasonably foreseeing that these actions constituted illegal operations.”
The 71-year-old is also accused in a separate case of laundering money from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
In 2016, Odebrecht pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn court to paying more than $788 million in bribes to government officials and political parties, mainly in Latin America, to win infrastructure contracts.
The Brazilian company admitted paying bribes worth $59 million in Panama in exchange for contracts to build public works.
Martinelli has been investigated for multiple corruption scandals since leaving office. In 2021, he was acquitted for a second time on charges of espionage and embezzlement of public funds.